If You Keep Yourself Busy, You Won’t Be Depressed?
Twice lately I have heard people say that the secret to curing depression is just keeping yourself wickedly busy. If you’re busy enough, they say, you’ll have no time to be depressed. (I didn’t realize that one needed to book an appointment for depression.)
This, of course, is absolutely hogwash and just one of the dumb ideas that people with no experience with major depression have. It’s just one of the ideas we have to politely roll our eyes at and then get on with the business of actually treating our depressions.
Being “Busy Enough” to Stop Depression
In case you were wondering, I’m one of the busiest people I know. If you understood the amount of writing I produce on a weekly basis, you would get it. I write for five separate websites multiple times per week and have assignments in between all of that. Many writers would be happy to write one article in a day. I, some days, have to write five. Plus manage social media accounts, answer email, respond to queries and do a bunch of other independent contractor-y type things. I typically work seven days a week.
Believe me when I tell you: I’m busy.
Oh yeah, and I still get depressed.
Being Busy and Depressed
So my cousin said to me in response to the above advice, “Yes, because nothing makes you feel better than an overflowing to-do list that you can’t accomplish.”
Point well taken. Being overly busy can absolutely make a person more depressed, not less. Being stressed out all the time trying to make sure you can fit 20 hours into a 16 hour day definitely doesn’t positively affect a person’s mental health (or mental illness).
Being Depressed Isn’t about Time or Being Busy In It
I don’t know why I have to say this but apparently I do: being depressed isn’t about having too much time on your hands. If that were the case then everyone in monasteries would need antidepressants. Being depressed is about having a sick brain and your brain can get sick with a full schedule or an empty one, kind of like you can get the flu with a full schedule or an empty one too. (No one ever says if you just keep busy you won’t get the flu.)
Now, I will say that sometimes people tend to cocoon in life and withdraw from everyone and everything and this can make a pre-existing depression worse. No argument here. But the underlying problem isn’t their lack of busyness it’s the messed up bits of their brain which causes the desire for the lack of busyness – not the other way around.
Keep the Sage Advice to Yourself
What I really want to say is: keep your sage wisdom to yourself unless you happen to be an expert on mental illness. Because this “sage wisdom” just ticks people off and makes people feel bad about themselves (As in, oh, he’s saying that I’m doing something wrong because I’m depressed. It’s my fault.). And believe me, we feel bad enough about being sick as it is.
And we have enough to handle without fending off ignorance. We have meds and doctors and waiting rooms and appointments and symptoms and side effects and we just don’t need anything more.
So the next time you feel like telling a sick person what will cure them, don’t. Just don’t.
Tracy, N. (2013, November 19). If You Keep Yourself Busy, You Won’t Be Depressed?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/11/keep-yourself-busy-wont-depressed
Author: Natasha Tracy
I am depressed, maybe manical but functioning and trying to get on with my life. I am 'OK' when I am busy but I still have massive problems with sleeping, waking and just functioning.
I am in a position where I have a rotation for work, so I have six months off a year. Previous to this I have had no time off - at all, in a high stress non forgiving job. I make no excuses for myself but I have been depressed for a very long time yet people who work with me note my happy/smiling disposition.
That being said I am getting worse. I am, due to factors in my life getting divorced and have a young son. The wife and I are divorcing having worked together in very close confines for 20 years.
I have lost my best friend and confidant by my own actions in pushing her away with verbal abuse and projection of my self hate for being abused at school (age 4 to 11).
I have had counselling and we tried to fix things but it seems I am just not worth living with despite providing and being there for what was my family.
Having met professionals in my case against the school I attended, I have tried therapy but still I had a breakdown.
I am described by my friends (and ex wife) as up and down in mood, and I sometimes can move mountains and the next day I am unable to make a sandwich.
My latest health care professional has suggested I have a lower form of maic depression and now I am actually scared and depressed.
I would like to ask if you have any suggestions for me for moving on? I am in no way endangering myself or others but want to get a grip and not be so up and down.
I would appreciate any advice. Thanks
Im fighting depression 17 years,not being depressed all that ti
In the morning upon waking I must get out of bed as soon as possible. The longer I lay then depression starts to settle very fast. Once it starts it is usually there the whole day. That is why I must move or do some activity. Usually I begin with a cup of coffee and reading. Then it is either work or a jog.
I asked myself what if I have another 15 years to live. That sounds like a lot, but then not really. Fifteen years is only 5,475 days. Am I going to live 5,475 days in fear and misery, or am I going to try very hard to recover and start living. I decided it is time to fight and start living. Life isn't fair; it never has been. I am far luckier than most. It is one step and one day at a time.
Don't give in. Give it the best. I am going to quit worrying. Anxiety and depression will always be there, but if I can lessen their grip on my life then I have won the race.
Reminiscing of past times had
Painful memories gather together
Leaving the mind in turbulent weather.
Must keep busy,must keep going,if not life will just shutdown
Stagnant,stale,no joy in this gail.
Of course some of those very goals are also things shown to help with depression - like taking your meds, meditating, exercising etc.
Depression may well be 100% a brain chemistry condition - but there are many ways to alter that chemistry besides pills.
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Experts should've come up with unconfusing naming. Maybe 'brain flu' or 'brain chemical flu' etc instead of depression or mental illness.
...who put this stupid 'depression' naming in the first place..? It's not only hard for depressed patients themselves, but also for people who need to manage the depressed people's work & social shedules and explanation to involved parties.
They are completely different. You may wish to read this: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/01/is-bipolar-a-personality-disorder/
- Natasha Tracy
But for the most part when I am depressed try to keeping myself busy is a nice diversion from the negative thought patterns that tend to make it worse
Of course the amount of energy I have to do things is always a factor. I find that a lot of the bipolar medications are sedating and zap my energy. They also tend to cause weight gain which makes it harder to get moving
You have decided that you are a depressive and now your whole life is based around being a depressive. Someone who loves you tells you something like 'you enjoy your 'to do' lists' and you say 'how dare people who don't understand this disease try to cure me'. But the truth is, you enjoy being a depressive now because your whole live is anchored to that. And when your cousin who loves you tells you the truth it disturbs the comfort of the life you've encased yourself in. Of course you're depressed if you spend all your time boring yourself.
You should pack up your whole life, sell it, go travelling for a month, then come back and start again. Press the reset button and decide to be the life and soul of your own party.
You're wonderful, and it scares you so you hide from it.
I have to keep myself distracted, on my own with nothing to do and I want to die.
Your point is still valid though, anyone not suffering from this thinks that it's a choice - I wish.
it triggered or maybe just brought up a negative memory of a comment my sister-in-law said to me after i was in hospital after a suicide attempt years ago (pills & alcohol)....i can't remember what exactly i said trying to defend my actions of why it happened....but it came up around the issue of "coping skills??"...she said "oh when i am upset i get out the vacuum & clean"!!! i was taken aback & felt insulted...i replied "well, you were lucky you learned coping skills, in my family we dont' know what that is!!" in other words...i was not impressed by her lack of empathy...or understanding of mental health...don't see her at all these days :)!! She had NO IDEA what issues i was having or wanted to...she was very dismissive & i still find a lot of people in my life that way, especially in my family ... except my sister who understands depression...struggles with it too & anxiety & besides one brother (out of 6) who has sever OCD(&i would put bets on him being bipolar too) we are the only 3 out of 8 kids & parents who acknowledge & understand mental health .... still i lack a lot of support period...not even sure if my antidepressant is really working...not sure what to do about it either...& now last year been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but i believe i also have ADHD & Bipolar in the mix....unfortunatley i haven't had any ONE P-DOC monitor me over the last 11 to really know what's goin on with me...so not doing well at all these days... Thank you for all your posts & comments etc..... i value your knowledge & understanding immensely :)
that says it all really!
Plus provides my creative expression to flower..
Well today ( key : so far) I am depressed.
Well put,Natasha,I wasn't aware you needed appointments for downs or ups!
For ME,one is as hellish as the other..
Life seems so uncomplicated for those unaffected by this life altering. & deadly disease.
Frustration plays a huge part,as it's like the world spins and I'm spinning w it,faster and faster ( mania) money doesn't matter,here's the party!!!!:-)
Or I'm in slow- motion,drop things,writers block,cry over anything/everything,feel
I just think people,in general,are just so..unaware of how hard we do try how frustrating
Exhausting it is...
Perhaps if they did,they keep their so- called helpful hints,to themselves!!
Excuse the bitterness,but the whole monotony gets old...
You just..get tired of being sick.
& sick of being tired.
I never considered as some do,this to be some kind of gift..or making me unique..
It's ruined my dreams & so much more.
It just plain...sucks.
Rapid cycles,like myself,think have the most difficult side of the BP spectrum.
I have to make an extra effort to achieve the same things other people achieve without difficulty, and when I fail, I'm met with scold, as if I wasn't trying.
Your writing really is a solace, I'm glad I found it.
Well, I can't say what your doctor "will" do, but I would suspect she would, yes.
FYI: Psychologist can't prescribe medications - they are not medical doctor. Psychiatrists _are_ medical doctors and typically handle prescriptions.
If you are getting sufficient treatment with your existing doctor, then you may not need a psychiatrist, but if you're not getting better, then get on a waiting list for a psychiatrist and see your regular doctor in the meantime.
- Natasha Tracy
I'm really confused about this theme.
When I'm really depressed and down with suicidal thoughts, I'm not able to do a thing (not even shower, - as you wrote in another article). But since I'm have rapid-cykling bipolar, I can switch from depressive to restless and working like crazy from day to day. Before I was diagnosed, I thought I was a workaholic, - enjoing the way my work avoided me from thinking about a lot of other problems.
So I'm really not sure, that the "being busy enoungh" isn't my brain going into hypomania/mania or even someting completely different.
Well, if you already have a diagnosis, the psychologist may not be looking to re-diagnose you - she may just go with the given diagnosis. Perhaps she is just meeting with you to confirm.
No, your psychologist cannot prescribe medications nor does she really have any business recommending specific ones. Only your doctor should do that. If you have a preference for a medication (which it sounds like you do) you should be completely forthright with all the professionals and just tell them that. Honestly, it shouldn't be a worry because a medication that has worked in the past is usually the first one they want to try in the future.
Be honest about your concerns and be honest about what you want because that's the best way to ensure that you'll get it.
People confuse situational depression with brain-chemistry induced depression.
I know, before I was diagnosed bipolar, and was in despair, my grandmother would tell me to keep busy, to "take a walk around the block" and I would feel better. Of course it didn't make me feel better. I was a college student and I walked about 3 miles a day; I was very busy of course. And later, after I graduated from college, I was a research scientist and a single parent, again, very busy ... and the depressions were relentlessly persistent.
Non-mentally-ill people would like my bipolar disorder to go away: to just stop, just stop, just stop.
I'm now on disability and I have to say, my depressions are much shorter now that I'm not so busy and not so self-conscious about my bipolar disordery moods. I get to roll with my depressions, sleep when I need to, and not feel guilty about not performing work adequately.
I think a lot of people may have gone through situational depression and so, then, they think they can emphasize with someone who has clinical or bipolar depression. People have a need for control over their own lives, and control is one thing that people with bipolar disorder, to some extent, have to give up.
The Vogue article is worth reading, though, as a reminder of the differences between a (losing 3 children and your parents would qualify as an) horrific event and the resultant depression and doing absolutely nothing and still cycling into a depression. In fact, I'll probably make several copies of the article, so I can hand one to the next person who says "well, you need to keep yourself busy, not go all naval-gazey, so you can alleviate your depression."
This advice helped my Gran through her life too.
And, you say, you are a busy person yourself. Doesn't that help you to a degree, having a busy important schedule, doing constructive things with your anger?
Sometimes people's advice is from a place of judgement, other times from a place of goodwill. Sometimes there's a little of each.
It's up to you to determine the difference.
Are they really suggesting that you can cure your illness with their advice, thus belittling the suffering? Or are they just sharing something that they know, a drop in the ocean for you but a drop that might just help a little?